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Dodgers invite 22 non-roster players to big league camp in spring training

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Keibert Ruiz
Keibert Ruiz
Steve Saenz ~ Rancho Cucamonga Quakes

LOS ANGELES — The Dodgers on Tuesday announced the 22 non-roster invitees to big league camp in spring training at Camelback Ranch in Glendale, Ariz., including their top two catching prospects in Keibert Ruiz and Will Smith.

Pitchers and catchers report to Dodgers camp on Tuesday, Feb. 13, with position players reporting on Feb. 18. The Dodgers’ first full-squad workout is Monday, Feb. 19, and their first spring training game is on Friday, Feb. 23 against the White Sox.

The switch-hitting Ruiz, just 19 this year, was the club’s minor league player of the year in 2017, and Smith was a supplemental first-round pick in 2016.

Newcomers

Manny Banuelos, who turns 27 in March, posted a 4.93 ERA in 95 innings with Triple-A Salt Lake in the Angels’ system in 2017, with 85 strikeouts and 49 walks. The left-hander made 30 relief appearances and nine starts with Salt Lake.

You might remember Banuelos as the former top prospect from spring training 2011 when then-Yankees catcher Russell Martin, who caught the first three seasons of Clayton Kershaw’s major league career, compared the two pitchers.

“He has as good stuff as I’ve seen,” Martin said, per Bryan Hoch of MLB.com. “I compare it to Kershaw or even more polished than Kershaw, which is pretty good.”

Banuelos had Tommy John surgery at the end of 2012, causing him to miss all of the 2013 season, and missed the first seven weeks of the 2016 season after surgery to remove bone spurs in his left elbow.

Zach Neal is a 29-year-old right-hander who pitched parts of the last two seasons with the Athletics. He posted a 4.89 ERA in 30 games, including six starts, with 37 strikeouts and seven walks in 84⅔ innings. In the majors he has thrown his sinker 42.74% of the time and has a 50.8% ground ball rate.

In 411⅓ Triple-A innings over the last four seasons, Neal’s walk rate is a minuscule 3.1%.

Jake Peter came to the Dodgers from the White Sox in the three-team trade that also saw LA acquire reliever Scott Alexander from the Royals. Peter, who turns 25 in April, hit .279/.344/.417 between Double-A Birmingham and Triple-A Charlotte in 2017. He plays mostly second base, but has also seen time at third base, shortstop and the outfield corners.

Travis Taijeron made his major league debut with the Mets in 2017, going 9-for-52 (.173/.271/.269) with a home run and two doubles in 26 games. The right-handed batter struck out 24 times against five walks in his 59 major league plate appearances.

He struck out 459 times in three seasons in Triple-A Las Vegas but also walked 202 times and hit 69 home runs and 96 doubles, hitting .274/.382/.523. He has been mostly a corner outfielder in his career, with 484 minor league games in right field and 138 games in left field. He played 98 games in center field, though just 11 of those have come in the last five years.

All of his time in the field in the majors with the Mets came in right field, with 15 games, including 13 starts in 2017. Taijeron’s offseason plan is notable, per Abbey Mastracco of NJ.com:

He goes back to his native East San Diego County and works construction after the minor league season wraps up every year. While most players prefer to coach baseball or give private lessons, this isn't exactly an uncommon line of work for minor leagues. Tigers pitcher, and former Mets' prospect, Michael Fulmer lays pipe in the offseason.

Donovan Solano spent parts of five years (2012-16) in the majors with the Marlins and Yankees playing all over the infield, mostly second base. Solano, 30, hit .282/.329/.391 with 29 doubles in 99 games for Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, his ninth season in Triple-A.

Solano had a scary moment on Jan. 24 while playing for the Licey Tigers in the Dominican Winter League. While trying to bunt he was hit in the face by a pitch and taken to a local hospital. Luckily Solano suffered no broken bones, but did have to get stitches in and around his mouth.

Pat Venditte pitches with both hands and put up a 4.97 ERA in parts of two seasons in the majors (2015-16) with the A’s, Blue Jays and Mariners, with 42 strikeouts and 23 walks in 50⅔ innings. The 32-year-old had a 3.36 ERA in 52 relief appearances for Triple-A Lehigh Valley in the Phillies’ system in 2017, with 69 strikeouts and 36 walks in 69⅔ innings.

Mark Lowe was a non-roster invitee with the Dodgers in 2013, and spent 2017 in Triple-A in the White Sox and Mariners systems.

Prospects

There are several Dodgers minor leaguers who also got the invitation, led by the aforementioned catchers.

Yusniel Diaz, the 21-year-old Cuban outfielder who split time between Class-A & Double-A in 2017, will be in his first major league camp.

Another Cuban defector, pitcher Yaisel Sierra, returns to big league camp. He is in the middle of a six-year, $30 million contract though not currently on the 40-man roster.

Other Dodgers minor leaguers invited to big league camp are Texas League MVP Matt Beaty and corner man Edwin Rios, both drafted in 2015. Cal League MVP DJ Peters gets the call as well.

Dodgers 2018 non-roster invitees to spring training

Player Pos 2018 age* 2017 highest level
Player Pos 2018 age* 2017 highest level
Manny Banuelos LHP 27 Triple-A
Joe Broussard RHP 27 Triple-A
Daniel Corcino RHP 27 Double-A
CC Lee RHP 31 Triple-A
Mark Lowe RHP 35 Triple-A
Brian Moran LHP 29 Double-A
Zach Neal RHP 29 MLB
Yaisel Sierra RHP 27 Triple-A
Pat Venditte RHP/LHP 33 Triple-A
Keibert Ruiz C 19 Class-A
Will Smith C 23 Double-A
Shawn Zarraga C 29 Double-A
Matt Beaty 1B/3B/OF 25 Double-A
Drew Jackson IF 24 Double-A
Max Muncy IF 27 Triple-A
Jake Peter IF 25 Triple-A
Edwin Rios 1B/3B 24 Triple-A
Donovan Solano IF 30 Triple-A
Yusniel Diaz OF 21 Double-A
DJ Peters OF 22 Class-A
Henry Ramos OF 26 Triple-A
Travis Taijeron OF 29 MLB
*age as of June 30, 2018